Man gets 18 months for hoax plane threat


HONOLULU — A Hawaii man who pleaded guilty to falsely reporting a possible airplane hijacking was sentenced Thursday to a year and a half in federal prison.

Timothy David Hershman said in court he blames the call on stupidity, anger and alcoholism.

“I screwed up really big time, your honor,” he said. “I’m really sorry for this.”

Hershman was drunk when he called the FBI last year saying another man was going to hijack an Alaska Airlines flight, said Alexander Silvert, his public defender. Authorities determined the other man was aboard an Alaska Airlines flight from Kona to Seattle. After questioning him for nearly two hours, authorities deemed the call a hoax.

“He’s an alcoholic and he gets stupid when gets drunk,” Silvert said, explaining Hershman, 60, wanted to get back at a roommate with whom he was feuding. Prosecutors said Hershman confessed to making the call from a pay phone in Kona because the man allegedly placed fish guts in his truck.

Hershman’s hoax call prompted two Oregon National Guard F-15 fighter jets to escort the flight to Seattle airport. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Nammar filed a motion requesting Hershman pay about $72,000 to reimburse the government for fuel and other expenses. According to his motion, the Oregon National Guard scrambled to escort the commercial plane in a mission that took nearly four hours.

One of Silvert’s arguments against reimbursement was the expenses were “operational costs” similar to “costs a government would incur in sending out law enforcement officers to deal with a bomb threat, a bank robbery, a gambling den, or any other criminal activity.”

U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright denied the prosecution request Thursday, saying Hershman, who is now homeless and receives $1,300 a month in Social Security benefits, can’t afford to pay any restitution.

Seabright said the hoax call “had potential serious consequences.”

In the end, Hershman got the revenge he was seeking against the man, who was detained, Seabright said.

“He was essentially in custody because of this phone call,” the judge said.

 

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